Monday, October 20, 2014

It's been a really good day

I am amazingly happy right now. The thing that I thought was impossible happened. IT HAPPENED. And I keep checking to make sure it's true, because WOW! I just...I've been alternating between bundle of nerves, trembling with shock, laughing, almost crying, and trying to express inexpressible joy in these feeble sounds and symbols we call words. It's not nearly enough, but it's all we've got. So make the most of your words! Shout to the sky! Write poetry or prose or whatever the hell you want! Try to express that inexpressible joy bursting through your heart, try futilely, beautifully, clumsily, just TRY IT! Because...what you think it impossible might not be. What you think can never happen might happen if you give it a chance. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Really Bad Limerick and a Failed Triolet

There once was a mad scientist
Who, perusing his extensive client list,
Discovered to his dismay
His latest death ray
Was built for his nemesis's podiatrist.


This started off as a triolet
But something went wrong and I must admit
I'm not quite sure how I feel about it
But this started off as a triolet
Then it took its own reigns and it ran with it
And I'm not really sure where the path did split
But this started out as a triolet
And apparently I can't write poetry for s***
So I put down my pen and I say "Screw it
I might as well just learn how to knit
I'm bloody well done with this poetry s***

(But this started out as a triolet.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Blog!

Hey guys.

I've got kind of a lot going on right now. Just started my senior year of high school, and not only do I have a buttload of college stuff to deal with, but the schedule drastically changed and my favorite teacher left. The transition has been...less than smooth.

Nevertheless, I am working on a very important post that should be up sometime this week. So check back soon.

And I started another blog!

It's called Oddments and Wonders, and you can find it right here. (I kept part of my signature "rowanboookworm" url, complete with the extra o in book.)

Oddments and Wonders is strictly for my creative writing--poems, stories, essays, stuff like that. I'm going to put a lot of stuff up on there, partly to give colleges a chance to see it if they want to, but also because I want to share it with you guys. I really hope you like it! So far the only thing up there is a poem I wrote at Kenyon, but that will change soon. (It might even change later tonight if I feel like posting something else.)

I think that about wraps that up. Check back later this week for an internet social justice post. See ya!

UPDATE: Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to finish the post I promised you guys. Frankly, it was making me nauseous to write it. But it was about Sam Pepper and if you want to know more go here. That was my main info source anyway...sorry.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Goodbye, Sammy. I'll never forget you.

My mom had a 30% off gift card at Vroman's, so we went and got a lot of books on Saturday. And one of the books I picked up was Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye.

I read the whole thing that afternoon and it pretty much ripped my heart out.

It's hard to say goodbye.

In case you don't know, the Sammy Keyes series is a series of eighteen books intended for middle school readers, written by Wendelin van Draanen. (Anyone here see the movie Flipped? That was based off of something else she wrote.) Sammy Keyes follows this amazing heroine, who is unsurprisingly named Sammy Keyes, through seventh and eighth grade. They take place about a month apart, and they're all mysteries. Sammy never thinks of herself as a detective, but that's really what she is--she's a fierce, brilliant adventurer and detective. Personally, I think she'd make a great P.I. when she grows up.

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS MAY BE AHEAD. I'll try not to spoil anything too major, though.

The basic premise is that Sammy is this seventh grade kid who keeps getting involved in mysteries. Part of it is that she's curious, and once she's involved she can't let something go. She's brave and fierce and she frequently makes bad decisions. She also has a hard time getting to places on time. There's a reason the other characters call her "Sidetrack Sammy."

Sammy lives with her grandmother in a government-subsidized building--in which minors are not allowed. So she has to sneak up and down the fire escape and spend a lot of time away from home and generally do a lot of sneaking. This also creates tension whenever Sammy runs into the police, because if they find out about her living situation, she and her grandma are stuck.

The reason Sammy lives in the government building? Her flakey mother is off in Hollywood, trying to become an actress. Lady Lana (Sammy's mother) is actually one of my favorite characters to read about, largely for her sheer insufferableness. (I'd hate Lana in real life.)

Because of her living situation, Sammy really tries to keep the police from getting involved in stuff. But that's a bit hard with Officer Borsch, a by-the-rules Javert type policeman, on her tail. Sammy just seems to rub Officer Borsch the wrong way, especially in the earlier books. The first time they met, he gave her a ticket for jaywalking. But he goes through some truly well-done character development as the series progresses

Here are some things I love about Sammy Keyes (both the character and the books):

--Sammy is not a perfect person. She slacks off on her homework, lies left and right, jaywalks ALL THE TIME, and frequently runs afoul of the police--well, one police officer in particular. Officer Borsch is also a great character with a lot of amazing development!

--But Sammy always stands up for what is right, and when she makes mistakes she (eventually) admits to them and pays for them. I mean, the third book has her doing twenty hours of detention for using and abusing the school's PA system. TWENTY HOURS. That's a lot.

--The books are really funny. Sammy's got a great sense of humor. She's very sarcastic and she gives things and people little mental nicknames, especially if she doesn't know their real names (the Splotter, the Crocodile, Camo Butt, etc.). Billy Pratt, one of Sammy's classmates, is introduced in one of the later books, and he provides great comedy relief as well. Seriously, I love Billy. He's such a goofball!

--But van Draanen isn't afraid to get serious. In the fifth book, Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Mustache Mary, Sammy tangles with drug dealers and busts a meth lab. She's in seventh grade at the time. In the seventh book, Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes, she gets involved in gang business. Sammy also faces her own internal issues, such as her feelings about her mother's abandonment and the fact that she doesn't know who her father is.

--The books help teach the readers about serious issues, like drug abuse, abandonment, gang violence and bullying, without being boring or preachy. Instead of just saying "Don't do this," van Draanen really shows you why you shouldn't do this, and also why it might seem like a good idea at the time when it's not in the long run.

--Not everything is about Sammy. There are times when Sammy's friends rally and support her during emotional crisis, but there are also--probably more often--times when Sammy has to focus on and support them. This especially happens with her best friend Marissa, who has a destructive crush on a jerk called Danny. Marissa and Sammy's relationship is deep and complicated and it rings true to life. They're similar enough to get along and different enough to play off each other in really funny ways. Marissa's a lot more emotional than Sammy, and I'd say that Sammy's quite a bit tougher than Marissa.

--The relationship with Heather Acosta is always interesting. Heather Acosta is pretty much the Draco Malfoy of the series. She's Sammy's classmate and, for reasons of her own, she hates Sammy. Their relationship kicks off with a bang in the first book, when Heather pokes Sammy with a pin and Sammy punches Heather in the nose, and it goes more or less downhill from there.

--But in a lot of ways Heather is understandable. Yes, she's a massive jerk, but van Draanen examines Heather's emotions and motivations, especially in some of the later books. She has reasons for what she does, and her bitterness is deep and complex. (That said, she's still a wonderfully petty villain who you love to hate.)

--There's a touch of romance, especially in the later books, but it doesn't overtake the plot. And it is totally believable and adorable. Through the story, van Draanen manages to develop one of those insane situations where it makes perfect sense when you're reading the books, but if you try to explain to someone they'll probably get lost. I love those.

I found Sammy Keyes in seventh grade, and I got to it in kind of a roundabout way. I picked up a different book by Wendelin van Draanen, a book called Runaway. Runaway follows the story of Holly, a twelve-year-old girl escaping from an abusive foster home and making her own way across the world. The book had a huge impact on me, and it's still one of my favorites. It is absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend it.

At the back of the book van Draanen had written an afterword. I read it and got confused, because it referenced the Sammy Keyes series. (Sammy appears near the end of Runaway.) Then I realized that Holly had started out as a character in Sammy Keyes--she shows up in the third book, Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy. I really loved Holly and I wanted to read more about her, so I picked up a Sammy Keyes book, figured out which was the first one, and started from there.

And I think it was at about the third one when I fell in love. Holly is still one of my favorite characters, by the way. She shows up a lot and she's amazing.

So thank you, Holly, for being so strong and amazing and for guiding me to Sammy. And thank you, Sammy, for making me laugh and helping me figure out what's wrong and what's right and for being your brilliant self. I will never, ever, ever forget you.

And there's always rereading.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge and GISHWHES

Yesterday my good friend Chelsea Hagen, who I met at Kenyon, challenged me to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

So I did it.

Sorry about the fuzzy quality. I filmed it on my iPad.

Due to the way my iPad case/stand works, I couldn't tell if the camera was pointed in exactly the right direction. So I just went for it and hoped for the best.

And accidentally made it so that I was off-camera when I dumped the water on my head.


A word to the wiser than me: don't do it if you live in California. There's a drought going on. But I did it with recycled water over a plant that needed to be watered, so hopefully I didn't do too much damage.

If you want to donate--which would be awesome--go here:

or here:

I thought I'd also take this time to write about GISHWHES, which is another crazy thing that Chelsea talked me into. Apparently she's good at getting me to do crazy things.

GISHWHES stands for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. It's this big world-wide scavenger hunt where you find or make the items on the list and submit videos or photos. It's put together by Misha Collins, who plays Castiel on Supernatural (I don't watch it, but I have a lot of friends who do). It lasts a week and it was really fun!

Participants are assembled into teams of fifteen. Not all team members are in the same area. The team I was on was spread out between California, Illinois, Texas, and Canada. We found a website to chat on so that we'd know who was doing what.

The first thing I called was an item asking for "Jump the shark." Now, jumping the shark refers to the moment when something has declined in quality to the point where it's just trying to get attention by doing something ridiculous. It first came from a TV show where, in an attempt to get viewers, one of the actors jumped over a shark while waterskiing. But the GISHWHES item specifically said "Be creative. Points will be taken off for missing limbs and shark bites," so no actual sharks were involved.

As soon as I saw the item, my mind flew to a classmate who had worn a shark costume during Spirit Week. I called her and she was kind enough to let me borrow it, so I picked up the costume that afternoon.

Two days later I was in my friend's backyard, jumping rope in a shark costume with my legs sticking out.

I can't post this one here, because it's on my friend's channel and it's an unlisted video so I can't access it. But I wrote a jumprope rhyme to go with the video. It went:

I had a baby shark and his name was Toothy Tim
I put him in the bathtub to see if he could swim
He swam around the water, he ate my rubber duck
He chewed it and he swallowed it and then it got stuck.

The next thing I did was modify my bike. The challenge: "We think your bike has been disappointing you with its current performance. Turn it into a warp-speed capable space ship. Film yourself riding it."

So I bought some silver spray paint and silver duct tape and went to work. 

Here's what it looked like: 

I was going for a Starship Enterprise effect, but let me tell you, that thing was hard to ride. The attachment on the back kept hitting me in the legs and the hood over the basket conveniently blocked my view of the gearshift. 

But I did it. Woo!

The next item tacked was the public service announcement about how to best serve our new jellyfish overlords, since the jellyfish will be big winners in global warming. This was so much fun to write. My friend and I wrote it, our other friend read it for the camera, and I edited it. I had a heck of a time with the editing, since it could only be fifteen seconds long. I wound up speeding up the clip slightly, so my friend's voice was a tad squeaky. The whole thing had a very Night Valelian aura. 

Then I went after the family of four enjoying a formal dinner where everything above the tablecloth is made of Legos. That one was a photo. I got some extra Legos and brought them to my friend Merula, who a) is an expert at Legos and b) has a family of four. Unfortunately I can't post this one, as Merula doesn't like having her photo on the internet. 

After that, Merula came back to my house and our other friend came over and we made pasta with jam sauce! We used this recipe, as was required: 
 The challenge was to make it and then have a certified, published food critic review it. Good thing my mom is friends with a certified, published food critic.

The stuff was actually surprisingly tasty. Merula in particular loved it and took most of it home with her. 

Then, on a whim, we did the challenge of "Have an elderly person teach you an obsolete skill." Many thanks to my dad for agreeing to impersonate an elderly person. 

The next challenge was quite scary...

The challenge: "Get everyone in a subway, bus or train car to sing "Over the River and Through the Woods." There must be at least eight passengers and it must not be staged."

So that's how my friend Sally and I wound up taking the Metro to Pasadena so that we could get a video on the way back. 

It was a really fun trip. But on the way there, we saw someone get arrested. The train was pretty much deserted when it pulled into the Memorial Park station, and this guy got on. And then these two police officers got on the train, pulled him off it, and as the train pulled away Sally and I saw them frisking him and leading him away. Which was like, holy crap. That was kind of scary!

It turned out that there was a farmer's market going on in South Pasadena, so Sally and I got off the train, walked around a bit, and shared a crepe. It was super fun. Then we got back onto the train and attempted the challenge. 

Before I show you this, I have a question: Do you know the lyrics to Over the River and Through the Woods?

Yeah, no one else does either. 

Thanks, Misha Collins.

When we got off the train on the way home, the police were there checking peoples' Tap cards to make sure that they had paid for their rides. Just in case we needed to be any more nervous than we were.

The last item planned was a gingerbread neighborhood full of vice. My friend and I had gotten the gingerbread and made the dough with mixed results on the day of the jellyfish PSA. See, what happened was we got some gingerbread mix and decorations at the store. The box had three sets of instructions on it: on the back were the directions for ginger cake and soft gingerbread cookies, and on the side were the directions for the kind of gingerbread cookies that you use a cookie cutter on.

We accidentally made the soft cookie mix. Which required about eight times as much water as the normal mix.


So we kept adding flour until it thickened up and then stuck it in the fridge to harden. I baked the pieces a few days later, and the day after the train ride Sally came over to help me frost and assemble.

It was a precarious undertaking. The walls were misshapen and lumpy, there were a LOT of people, and one of the two buildings only had half a roof (we made the other half out of graham crackers). It was the kind of thing where you didn't want to sneeze too near to it in case it fell over. But eventually we got it done.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: A Shootout Outside of The Elopus Strip Club and Bobby's Tattoo Parlor.

In case you can't tell what's going on: the guys in green (a.k.a. the Peter Pan Evil Girl Scouts) are having a shootout with the guys in black (a.k.a. the Ninjas) outside of a strip club and a foreclosed tattoo parlor. One cop is down, while his buddy his chatting up the hooker in the ally. 

We got candy lips just for the hooker.

The Elopus, by the way, was this year's GISHWHES mascot.

This was enormous fun to make and I am proud of it. The gingerbread was horribly bland and the icing was plasticky, but it looked amazing! 

The Elopus Strip Club was finished on the last day of GISHWHES. We'd done all we had signed up for and I thought that was it until about nine o'clock that night...when suddenly, one of my California teammates realized that she wouldn't be able to complete the sci-fi movie poster starring Misha Collins and the Queen of England (no photoshop allowed). So I pulled out my pencils, pens, and a couple of markers and got to work!

 I am SO PROUD of this poster. I went for a 50's monster-movie look and I am SO. PROUD.

It was submitted half an hour before the deadline and then I was well and truly done. GISHWHES was over. And I am SO doing it again next year. :D

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Quick post let people know that I'm not dead. Close, but no. I've been doing GISHWHES this week, and thus I've been super busy.

I need to get some sleep so I can get up and do stuff with gingerbread tomorrow, but I promise I'll tell you all about it once it's over.

As an apology, have a couple of old funny pictures.

Yeah, they've been on the blog before. Deal with it. 

See ya.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Theories on Dragon Training (Puts On Tinfoil Historically Inaccurate Viking Hat)

I went to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 yesterday, and holy cow, it was great! I'd seen the first one a few months ago at a friend's house, but Dad wanted to see the second one with me so we checked the first one out of the library and watched it Saturday night. I also used to be a big fan of the books when I was younger, and I got to go to a Cressida Cowell book signing once. That was fun. I got a plushie of Toothless. It looks like Movie Toothless, but it's about the size of Book Toothless. (Book Toothless is a lot smaller, if you didn't know that already.)

Me with my Toothless plushie outside the library. It was a few years ago, hence the long hair.

And the soundtrack--wow! I mean, I'm already a sucker for anything that sounds Irish/Scottish (Scotch?)/fiddle-y, and it was just so good! I just bought the soundtrack to the second movie and I'm listening to it as I type.

Having seen both movies in quick succession, I came away with a few conspiracy theories to explain minor plotpoints/plotholes that they didn't address.


So in the first movie, it takes Hiccup quite a while to gain Toothless's trust, right? I mean, they can't even make eye contact the first time Toothless lets Hiccup touch him. But then nearish the end, when Hiccup and his classmates have to go help Stoic and the other adults beat the alpha, they train the other dragons pretty fast. It seems like a plotting gap, but I have an explanation!

See, the other dragons they train are already used to having humans around. I mean, yeah, the humans have mostly been fighting with them, but it didn't look like any serious injuries were done to the dragons. So the other dragons are already more trainable. Plus, Hiccup's already been covertly working with them for the past few weeks during his training.

On a similar note, I have a theory that when the alpha died in the first movie--the "Queen Bee" alpha--that made all the dragons under his/her/its control more susceptible to human friendship. Some kind of psychological bond obviously exists between the alpha and the other dragons, but when the alpha died with no new alpha to replace it, that bond would have snapped. Or maybe the Vikings were seen as a sort of alpha-substitute, since they were the ones who dispatched the old alpha. Either way, the satellite dragons are going to be much more open to human friendship, companionship, and training. Also I think Hiccup was probably out for at least a week or two between losing his leg and the end of the movie, so there was some time to adapt.

The one thing that I was wondering after I saw HTTYD2 was How did Drago control that alpha? I mean, Drago's alpha was HUGE. It could have just stepped on him or something. He was not that big a threat to it. But I figure that Drago probably put some serious effort into training the alpha--and by "serious effort" I mean that he refined some truly horrifying torture techniques for use on really big dragons. Making friends with it just isn't Drago's style. He must have found a way to make the alpha fear him, then figured out how to forge some kind of psychic link with it so that it knew and obeyed his commands. I'm not quite sure how he did this, but it can't have been fun for the dragon. I mean, did you see those chains around the alpha's tusks? Yikes.

So there you have it: my way-too-in-depth take on the HTTYD universe. What do you think about it? Any new theories?